Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Obligatory "Hey, It's Been a While" Post

Do you ever do that thing where you forget to return someone's call, and because life gets hectic you just keep on forgetting until maybe 3 months have passed? Maybe you thought about that person a lot or kept telling yourself you were going to get in touch, but it just kept not happening. Then, because you took so long you started to feel sort of awkward and guilty and it became all about you and how you felt and not really about your friend at all. So you continued to not call.

I do not encourage behavior such as this, but I do admit that I fall into this pattern from time to time. I was definitely doing this with my dear friend, freezer blog.

Oh, freezer blog, I've thought about you a lot. I've missed you. I've brainstormed ideas for you. And then Sam started pulling all of the keys off of the computer and we started hiding the computer and vacation happened and school started and marathon training got for serious and... it just got awkward. But we should really get together soon... I'll call you. Ok?

So what I never really communicated to you, mom and uncle loyal readers, was that I actually mostly filled my freezer over the summer. And then I mostly emptied it over the past 3 months of chaotic Tuesdays and Wednesdays. My two thumbs up go to the slow cooker salsa verde chicken and to the three meatloaves I made in August but never told you about. Oh, and the granola bites -those things are a life-saver. Oddly, what is still literally chillin' in the deep freeze is that triple-batch of pancakes that I had a premature mid-life crisis over. I can't even bring myself to look at them. Just kidding. I think I'll bring them upstairs to the fridge-freezer for use during the final push of the semester and finals week.

By the way, meatloaf is really easy to make ahead and freeze. I just make a triple batch of some variation (usually I replace 1/2 pound of the beef with chopped veggies) of the Quaker Oat meatloaf recipe. Instead of baking, I shape into loaves and put on a cookie sheet to freeze. After about an hour of freezing, I wrap them up and put them in the chest freezer. The night before I want to make it, I put it in the fridge. Then in the morning I stick it in the crock-pot with 1/4 cup of water and let it cook all day. Steam some veggies. Dinner.

Here's the plan - I have about a month off in December and I plan to use it wisely. I will re-stock this month and maybe even write some posts about it. And maybe about some other things too. We'll see. I am hesitant to recommit to you, freezer blog. I just don't trust myself...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I made a smoothie...

I made this smoothie today, and I liked it.



Here is what is in it:

2/3 cup frozen blueberries (that you picked in early July, washed, dried on several layers of paper      towel, froze in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet, then put in several quart size bags before      placing them in the chest freezer - because this is a freezer blog)
1 frozen banana (a fresh banana will work, but again, freezer blog)
6-10 large basil leaves
1/2 cup coconut milk (Trader Joe's Light - leftover from making Chana Masala earlier in the week)

Blend the first three ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add coconut milk and pulse a few times. Enjoy.

I am in no way a smoothie master. This one was a shot in the dark made with what I had, but it turned out just sweet enough with a bit of a tropical flair. I feel strongly enough about it that I am recommending it to you!

Are there any favorite smoothie combinations out there?

Nutrition Information: Calories - 220; Fat - 6.7g; Potassium - 417 mg; Fiber - 6g; Protein - 2g; Vitamin A - 10%; Vitamin C - 18%

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cookies for breakfast

Hello?! Cookies for breakfast!?

Why haven't I thought about this until now? I mean, I've thought about it in the sense that I've definitely eaten cookies for breakfast before, but to bake cookies with the expressed intent to eat in the morning? Genius. Paired with a piece of fruit, this actually isn't the most unhealthy breakfast in the world.

I can't wait to feed these to my kids. I wonder if they will sing my praises like Bill Cosby's kids did.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3trDL5MWlw
Which gives me another ingenious idea. Breakfast chocolate cake. I'll have to think about that one.



I don't recommend eating three. One will definitely suffice but just looks so sad and lonely all by itself on a plate.

Breakfast Cookies
Adapted from the King Arthur flour website with many substitutions

1/2 cup butter,
1 cup almond butter (can use peanut butter or any other nut butter)
2/3 cup honey
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 1/4 cup flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/3 cup oat bran
1/3 cup flax meal
2 scoops Whole Foods vanilla soy protein powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
add ins: you can use any combination of nuts, oats, dried fruit, etc, totalling 3-4 cups
 1 cup rolled oats
 1 cup chocolate chips
 1/2 cup dried cranberries
 1/2 cup dried coconut

Preheat oven to 350. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer beat together honey, butter and almond butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, milk and vanilla and mix until combined. Next add dry ingredients - flour, oat bran, flax, protein powder, salt and cinnamon - and mix until combined. Fold in whatever add-ins you are using.

Drop by scant 1/4 cup spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool for 3-4 minutes on the cookie sheet then transfer to cooling rack.

If you are freezing: to defrost just microwave for about 20 seconds and enjoy. I ate a frozen one this morning and it was the best. I'm going to have to bury these deep if they are going to last more than a few days!

Nutrition Information per 2.5 inch cookie (1/22 of recipe): Calories - 240, Fat - 13g, Fiber - 4g, Sugar - 14g, Protein - 7.6g, Iron - 9.2%

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I sorta kinda met a goal...

This is how I normally operate: have extremely low expectations for myself, and then I will be a rock star no matter what I do.

This is how it plays out: the goal for the day is to keep the children alive and fed. Oh, I got a load of laundry done? Domestic Goddess. Oh, we walked to the park? Best mom ever.

See what I mean?

Obviously this blog has been working against my rock star strategy. I think at the beginning I said that I was going to make and freeze two things per week and blog about it. That hasn't exactly happened, so I have chosen to interpret that goal in a looser way. If in two and a half weeks there are twenty-six items in my freezer, I will have met the goal. It should not be surprising to me that more than 1/2 of a task would be accomplished in the final 1/10 of the time allotted (and 1/2 of that 1/10 will be spent in the Poconos where I can freeze nothing). I have never really known another way. I'm not really interested in knowing another way either.

Now that you know my goal-setting philosophy, you might be surprised to learn that I set and met a goal. Kinda. Sorta.

Last week I said I wanted to make and freeze 5 relatively healthy things that could be eaten in a pinch when I'm looking for a snack. I made granola bites, flourless peanut butter cookies, and oat bran pancakes. On Thursday and Friday of last week I made quinoa mini quiches based on this recipe from Iowa Girl Eats. I made mine without ham and threw in some shredded zucchini, green onion, and basil. They were pretty tasty. I used a regular-sized muffin pan and a whole mini-quiche still came in under 90 calories. I also made flour-less chocolate zucchini  muffins from GreenLiteBites. There was somehow not a banana to be found in this house, so I replaced the banana with 1 cup of shredded zucchini. I added sweetened shredded coconut and a little extra honey to compensate for not having the sweetness of the banana. They turned out surprisingly good. Heartier than your average muffin, and definitely not as sweet. Newsflash: I have a sweet tooth. However the above recipes have much less sugar than your average baked good. I'm trying.

There you have it, a mini freezer-goal accomplished. It is also heavily ingrained in my personality to tell you all of the ways that I didn't exactly meet this goal. I didn't actually blog about it last week. I didn't do separate posts about the muffins and quiche. I have to make more granola bites and bean cookies because we keep eating them. Pancakes aren't really a snack. Okay, so in the first paragraph where I say that I keep low expectations for myself? That's probably a bunch of BS. This is like blogging therapy. In the ten minutes I took to write this post I realized that I actually usually set impossibly high standards for myself that I can't always meet. From now on, I'm gonna be a rock star instead.






Friday, July 26, 2013

The Oat Bran Pancake Blues

I got a little emotional while flipping the pancakes this morning.

I think it was a combination of things.

You see, I've been making this pancake recipe for the past 6 years. It was one of the first "finger foods" my oldest daughter, Laurel, ate. I used to whip up the recipe in this darling, hand-made bowl that Tom gave to me as a Christmas present one year.


It came with a little whisk that eventually broke. I loved to whisk those pancakes up for Laurel, and I probably talked to her the whole time about what I was doing in an obnoxious, high-pitched, sing-song voice. She always gobbled them up, and I didn't even give her any syrup. Something about making her those pancakes made me feel like the world's greatest, #1, A+ Mom.

By the way, I systematically broke most of the hand-made pottery we received for our wedding. It makes me sad just thinking about. I still have this bowl from around that time in our lives, and I'm fighting hard to keep it alive. Even with a toddler who climbs everything in an effort to destroy most things.

Recently, Tom and I have been talking about how we can really tell that we are now a family of five by the amount of groceries we go through. I am still shopping as if I'm a single gal, but there are four other people to feed around here. I rarely cook enough to have leftovers. I never buy enough bread to make it through a whole week. And back to these pancakes, I've been making a single batch for the past six years. I really need to double the batch to feed these three pancake monsters. To have any useful amount left to freeze? It's a triple batch, baby.


This giant bowl just feels all wrong.

I hope I didn't get any tears in the batter.

This weekend marks six years since we moved into the "green house" here in Pittsburgh. As I've reflected on that, I've been extremely nostalgic about what life was like when we moved in here. I have fond memories of walking throughout our new neighborhood with my sweet, 11 month-old baby strapped to my chest. I get teary thinking about going to church as a family and then hitting up the Whole Foods hot bar for breakfast and to just hang out. I can almost remember how at one time we had just one basket of beautiful wooden toys in the living room - and that was all that was needed to occupy our freakishly calm little girl.

Oh, the time of one batch of pancakes. Where have you gone?

Now, in order to take a walk through the neighborhood, I need to push 64 pounds of kids in a double stroller. Or create endless incentives to get my almost four-year-old to just keep walking. In either situation, there tends to be a lot of whining. Now, church feels more like torture than it probably should. We keep going, though, in hopes that there is something mysterious and miraculous that we cannot see happening within us through our perseverance and long-suffering. Now, our dining room is nearly indistinguishable from a day-care center gone wild. Crumbs everywhere. Stepping on crayons. Colorful plastic in every nook and cranny - and it would all make noise, too, if we didn't dutifully remove every battery.

Now, there is a lot of yelling. Some of it comes from me. Don't get me wrong. I guess you might not be able to tell from reading this post, but all three of my kids have brought me more joy than I ever could have expected. They have each made me wonder at the capacity to love that is within me. However, there have been some, um, other things that have risen to the surface as our family has grown. It used to be easier to deny how selfish I can be. How impatient I am. How restless I sometimes get. How critical of those I love most I so easily can become.

I am not the mother I thought I would be.

The mother who can take the growing demands of her growing family in stride. The mother who can keep her house clean. The mother who can listen intently to every word that crosses the lips of her (extremely talkative) child. The mother who does arts and crafts. The mother who reads her children classic literature - and they listen. The mother who never turns on the television. The mother who never allows sugar to cross the lips of her children and certainly would never bribe them with lollipops. The mother who is never annoyed with her kids but thinks they are always cute and charming. The mother who takes her kids on hikes and long walks and they love it because they are used to it. I could go on and on. It is so easy to be so critical.

I was not expecting a triple batch of pancakes to get me going like this. Thinking about simpler times. Feeling guilty because those times did not include my younger children. Feeling guilty for not being more like single-batch, A+ pancake mom. Oh, and all of that broken pottery. A tragedy. As I long for those "simpler times," I know I am being pretty selective with my memories. For instance, while I had many blissfully pleasant mornings with my sweet girl back then, at 3PM on most afternoons I started the evening shift as a therapist at a Psychiatric hospital. There was a lot to learn there, and there were people in need, no doubt. Mostly, though, I just pined away for the day when I could stop working there.

I know as life marches on and new struggles arise, I will probably look back on this very moment and wish I could be back here. When my little kids are teenagers and are scaring the crap out of me. When the kids face adversity at school. When there are challenges in the career I am trying to pursue. When we eventually meet with true tragedy - and that is something that will happen sooner or later.

Perhaps even next month when I inevitably will have to start burning the candle at both ends to get my nursing school stuff done, I bet I will look back fondly on this moment. Ahh, I remember the days when I could make pancakes in the morning to the adoring ooohs and aaahs of my kid fans and then stay in my pajamas until 11 am blogging about it while the kids destroyed the house all around me. Those were the days. It was so much better then.

I guess you might want that pancake recipe now.



Oat Bran Pancakes (loosely adapted over the years from a recipe in Simply in Season)

1/2 cup oat bran
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 tbsp. oil
1 tbsp. honey or sugar
mix-ins, if desired: chocolate chips, sliced banana, blueberries, etc.

Mix all ingredients in one bowl. That's my lazy method. Really, you should mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another, then combine. But they're just pancakes so I throw it all in one bowl and mix it up. Fry in a greased pan over medium heat. Flip when bubbles begin to appear. I froze 18 of these, and they turn out pretty well straight from the freezer to the toaster. Kind of like toaster waffles.

I hope these pancakes don't make you cry, too.



Monday, July 22, 2013

10 Things That Make Me Feel Like a Grown-Up

This morning I did something that I don't normally do. Before leaving the house to run some errands with the kids, I washed the breakfast dishes. Then I noticed that the living room area rug was sort of covered with crumbs, so I vacuumed it. Then, just so the hardwood wouldn't start to get jealous, I swept it. I did chores. In the morning. Before leaving the house. I was kind of feeling like a real, live grown-up. I tried to think of some other things that make me feel this way, and it was hard, I tell you!

It was much easier to think of things that make me feel not like a grown-up, because that includes nearly everything.

However, I dug deep in order to bring you this list: 10 things that make me feel like a grown-up

1. Cleaning up after myself. See above.
2. Listening to NPR. The median age of NPR listeners is 55. 
3. Roasting a chicken. I lose some grown-up points when I insist that my husband carve it (I don't like all that juice squirting out. Or the bones.).
4. Going to a restaurant with my kids. I thought that maybe having kids would make me feel more like a grown-up, but it doesn't. Taking them out in public, though, that'll do it. There will usually be some people in their early twenties, and they will think I am a grown-up because I have an entourage of three people who depend upon me for survival. This fits into the "fake it 'til you make it" category of things that make me fee like a grown-up.
5. Asking for recommendations for chiropractors (by the way... know anyone good?).
6. Waking up at 5:15 to go running.
7. Waking up at 5:15 to do anything else.
8. Drinking a glass of wine with dinner. No, not because drinking wine with dinner is in and of itself a grown-up thing to do. Drinking a glass of wine with dinner will invariably make me wake up no less than four times throughout the night to pee. Even just noticing this makes me feel like a grown-up.
9. Wearing Danish clogs. Wearing a scarf. Wearing earrings. Wearing all three together is like the grown-up triumvirate.
10. Blogging about freezing stuff. Okay, this one's a stretch, but I needed a way to tell you that I posted a new recipe: No-Bake Granola Bites

What makes you feel like a grown-up?






No-Bake Granola Bites

Here's another snack for when I am so hungry. Or when my kids are so hungry. Or when my husband is so hungry. They are kind of like no-bake cookies but with lots of healthy stuff. I'm pretty sure that flax seeds and chocolate chips cancel each other out in a cookie equation, so it looks like we're good here.

I think I will continue to experiment with this recipe to try out different combinations while at the same time creating a stockpile for the freezer.

                  


No-Bake Granola Bites

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup peanut butter 
2/3 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. honey

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Shape into 1 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet (this might require lots of squishing. I think if you use more honey they might stick together better, but I was trying to make them a little less sweet). Freeze on the cookie sheet for about 1 hour, then place in a freezer bag. Let's face it, I will probably eat these directly from the freezer. If you are the more patient type, you could place them on the counter for about 45 minutes, or pack them in your lunch. 

Nutrition Information per 1/25 of mixture (1 ball): Calories - 108, Fat - 6g, Fiber - 2.5g, Sugar - 6.6g, Protein - 3g

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I Am So Hungry!

I've been running a lot lately- more than I thought I ever would or could. This has made me so hungry that I wake up at 3AM with my stomach growling. I am so hungry that I will eat old, cold, cheesy eggs off of my preschooler's plate - you know, the ones that have been rolled around in watermelon juice or dipped in vanilla yogurt. I am so hungry that I eat graham crackers and goldfish crackers and pretzels and really almost anything that formerly had absolutely no appeal. I have never been pregnant with quintuplets, but this is how I imagine it would feel.

My goal for this week? Make and freeze 5 quick snacks so that I have some reasonable options for when the hungries strike. I bought some chia seeds today, so you know it's gonna get real.


You know that picture of no-flour, no-dairy peanut butter chocolate chip cookies that has been circulating on Facebook? They looked so ooey and gooey and I love snacks that are actually more like treats.Of course those were at the top of my list. I found a recipe here - I think she gets credit for this ingenious recipe.


Adorable photo-bombing.

Peanut Butter Cookie Bites 
Adapted from Texanerin 
Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup garbanzo beans - drained, rinsed, and dried on several layers of paper towel or in a salad spinner
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. natural peanut butter (must be the kind that needs to be stirred)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Place all ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor and process until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips. Shape into balls or flatten into cookie-shaped circles (they won't really change shape while they bake). Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Eat while warm. If freezing, allow to cool and then freeze on a cookie sheet. After about an hour, pop off the cookie sheet and into a freezer bag. Label, date, and put the bag in the freezer. Warm them in the microwave for about 20 seconds when you want a little bean-cookie-treat. I suggest doubling the recipe because you never know if you might be really hungry after these come out of the oven and have to eat 3-4 of them.


Much like her mother, this little girl will eat anything with chocolate chips in it. And smile.

Nutrition Info per 1/16th of recipe: Calories - 102, Fat: 6g, Protein: 4g, Fiber: 2g, Sugars - 9g


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Freezing Fresh Produce

Confession: I'm an amateur when it comes to the freezer.

Here is what went in the freezer when I was a kid: ice cubes (made by a machine, so even making ice is a skill that I did not hone until my mid-twenties), Lender's frozen bagels, ice cream on a lucky day, and beer mugs - dad liked them "frosty-freezy."

My mom preferred to buy fresh ingredients and cook them and then start over the next day. For the most part, this is how I operate as well. Because preserving food was not really part of my training as a child, I sometimes make freezer jam that is so runny it makes a much better ice cream topping (even after my husband offered to go get me some pectin, I was like, "nah... I think this will work"). I sometimes find baggies of yellow-orange material in the back of my freezer and cross my fingers in hopes that it is pumpkin or something comparable (if this happens to you, just throw it out). And let's not even discuss canning. There is a lot of hot water and popping, and even though you tell me it's easy, I just don't believe you.

See, I'm no expert. However, when you are trying to fill a small chest freezer and make your life easier, you sometimes have to depart from your modus operandi.

Below is a list that we got from Friends Farm when we were living in Altoona, Pa. They were our first CSA and will forever hold a special place in our hearts (read: no other CSA will ever come even a little bit close to how awesome they were). Somehow, after 7 years, I still have this list. Quite a triumph, considering I can't find the coupons I set aside last week. This list helps me when I've bought too much at the Farmer's Market, or when my garden actually produces a harvest of something, or when I just get an urge to freeze some stuff. I hope you find it helpful too!

So far this summer I've frozen three pints of blueberries and about 6 quarts of strawberries using the below method. I plan on making sure some fresh herbs and plenty of tomatoes go in there too.




Apples
Make applesauce or pie filling. Freeze in containers or bags
Berries
Wash, spin in salad spinner to dry or dry on several layers of paper towel, freeze in a single layer on a tray, then bag. This method allows for you to pour out a little at a time because the berries won't freeze together in one huge clump.
Broccoli
Chop and blanch 3 minutes, drain, cool, freeze
Cabbage
Cut in wedges, blanch 3 minutes, cool, drain, freeze
Fresh Herbs
Chop and freeze
Green Beans/Roma Beans
Trim ends, blanch for 3-4 minutes, cool, drain and freeze
Peaches
Place in boiling water until skins loosen (30-60 seconds), remove skin, slice or half, freeze
Pumpkin/winter squash
Cut into chunks, remove seeds, bake until soft, remove from skin, puree in blender or food processor, freeze for soups and baked goods
Scallions
Chop white and green parts, freeze
Shelling Peas
Shell peas, rinse, blanch for 60-90 seconds, cool, drain and freeze
Spinach or chard
Remove center rib, blanch for 1-2 min, cool, drain and freeze
Sugar snap peas
Remove end and string if desired, blanch for 60-90 seconds, drain, cool, freeze
Summer squash
Grate and freeze in 1 cup amounts for quick breads and muffins
Sweet corn
Husk, cook on the cob, cool, cut off and freeze
Peppers
Remove seeds, chop, freeze
Tomatoes
Remove core, plunge in boiling water for 1 minute, skins should slip off easily afterwards, cool and chop, freeze for use in soups and stews

***Also, I know you are all anxious to know that we ate the last of our 4 pounds of tortilla chips last night. I tell you what, freezing chips works! We froze some in bags and some in plastic containers with equally good results. We just put them on a baking sheet for a few minutes, and they were good to go. You can also warm them in the oven for a few minutes if warmish chips are your thing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Breakfast Sammies and Impending Marathon Doom

What have you been wasting your time on lately?

Do you want to know what I've been doing recently instead of laundry, reviewing nursing school stuff, cleaning the toilet, cleaning anything else, watering my sad plants, weeding my garden (we take a laissez-faire approach, and this year it looks like it might just work), selling stuff on eBay, freezing, blogging, or otherwise saving the world?

I've been reading absolutely everything the interwebs have to say about RUNNING A MARATHON. What? I kid you not, if any person anywhere has ever blogged about her first time running a marathon, I can guarantee I've read it this week. I've researched running gear (please, Lord, send forth a Garmin unto me). I've chosen the subsequent 5 marathons I'd like to run. I've read articles on training and pacing and strategy. I bought the book, Train Like a Mother, and have read pretty much the whole thing. I think I have read so much that I have deluded myself into thinking that I can just go out tomorrow and run 26.2 miles. Anyone want to come?

I haven't even registered for the race... yet. But the more I turn it over in my mind and obsess about it, the closer I think I am getting to being able to say, "Hey, I'm training for the Philly Marathon. It's in November." 

I am taking a break from my endless ruminating to write this blog post... about how... I am obsessively reading... about marathons. Oh well.

If When I eventually sign up and make it official, I promise that this blog will remain a freezer blog. With a little running thrown in for good measure.

And here's something that I will be happy to pop into the microwave after waking up at dark o'clock and running for over an hour: Western Omelet-ish Breakfast Sandwiches.



I saw something on Pinterest once where you crack eggs into a muffin pan and bake them and then make cute little egg mcmuffins. Yeah... I'm not doing that. It looks like a good idea, but I wasn't about to waste a dozen eggs on a Pinterest fail. Let's face it: if there's ever going to be someone who can't rock a Pinterest idea it's gonna be me. 

So I just made an oven-baked frittata, cut it up, and sandwiched it between 2 halves of an English muffin with a slice of ham. You can skip the ham. You can add some cheese. You can hold the veggies (but I always consider it such a triumph to cram some vegetables into breakfast). You can do whatever you want.

Western Omelet Breakfast Sandwiches
6 eggs
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups spinach or Swiss Chard, finely chopped
1-2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup milk or water
Salt and pepper
6 slices deli ham or Canadian bacon
optional: 6 slices cheese
6 English Muffins

Preheat oven to 350. Fry onions and peppers in olive oil in a skillet for 2-3 minutes. Add spinach and cook until just beginning to wilt. Remove from heat. Spread veggie mixture into the bottom of a greased, oven-safe dish that is approximately 8x8 (I have a strange Pyrex dish that is somewhere between 8x8 and 9x13). Beat eggs and milk or water, adding salt and pepper. Pour eggs over veggies, pop into the oven for 25-30 minutes until eggs are set. Cut into six squares and make sammies with the ham, cheese, if using, and English muffins. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag or plastic container. Freeze. To reheat, microwave for 90 seconds flipping over halfway through. Allow to cool for 1-2 minutes before eating.

Anyone want to go for a run?

Nutrition Info per Sandwich: Calories - 228, Fat - 6g, Fiber - 2g, Protein - 16g, Vitamin A - 18%, Vitamin C - 40%, Iron - 14%


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Oven Fries

I remember the first time I heard the word, "hummus." It was my freshman year of college, and a new friend with a nose-ring gave a restaurant recommendation that revolved around how good the hummus sandwich was. My first thought was that she must be talking about eating a layer of forest floor. I was really only one "m" off, and not so far off culinarily.

It turns out, this restaurant had a really excellent hummus sandwich, but I found something even better: sweet potato fries. Until then, sweet potatoes were something that Aunt Angela brought to Thanksgiving. I loved them - I just didn't know that you could eat them more than once per year and that there were other ways you could prepare them.

I've come a long way since freshman year. Did you know that a person can make her own bread? Her own pizza without using a Boboli pizza crust or English muffin? Her own hummus? Her own sweet potato fries? I could go on and on. These were all realizations I made along the way in absolute wonder and amazement. Keep in mind that this was all before the proliferation of food blogs and even before the Food Network became popular. I remember some college friends being really into the Iron Chef - but they were watching the original Japanese show back then. I bet it's a lot easier to learn how to cook these days. Back in my day we had to walk backwards and uphill 10 miles each way just to make a grilled cheese.

Sweet potato fries really aren't that difficult to make, but on busy nights during the school year, I would much rather just dump out a bag onto a baking pan than do any prep work whatsoever or dirty even one more dish.


Basic Oven Fries (adapted from Simply in Season)

2 large sweet potatoes (or white potatoes, or a mix)
olive oil
kosher salt
optional embellishments: crushed garlic, paremesan cheese, red pepper flakes, all three

Preheat oven to 425. Cut up potatoes - you can do thin wedges or shoe-strings, whichever you prefer. Toss with about a tablespoon of oil (I just eyeball it) to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet. If eating straight from the oven: bake for 12-15 minutes, then flip and bake for 10 more minutes. If freezing: bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet. Use a spatula to loosen the fries from the pan. Stick the baking sheet in the freezer for about an hour. Pop off and place in a zipper bag. Label, date, and place in the freezer. When you want to cook them, take them straight from the freezer and arrange them in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes, or until cooked to desired crispness without burning.

What food discoveries do you remember making?

Nutrition Info per 1/2 of a large sweet potato:
Calories - 113, Fat - 7g, Fiber - 2g, Vitamin A - 220%, Vitamin C - 18.6%

Sloppy Joe. Sloppy, Sloppy Joe.

What can I say about Sloppy Joes?

Not much, apparently. I made them about 3 weeks ago, along with homemade buns and sweet potato fries. I couldn't think of anything interesting to say about them, so I put them on the back burner. To be more precise, I put them in the freezer.



One thing I will say is this: always put coleslaw on your Sloppy Joe. Always.

Sloppy Joes

1.5 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
(any other veggies you wish to sneak in there)
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 cup brown lentils (optional)
1 cup water (not necessary if not using lentils)
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Brown the ground beef in a large pan. When beef is about half finished browning, add onion and carrot, sprinkle generously with salt, cook 3-4 minutes until veggies begin to soften. Add all other ingredients and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for around 45 minutes, until lentils are soft. You may have to add more water if your Joes get too thick. If you aren't using lentils, they only need to simmer for about 20-30 minutes for the flavors to blend together. Add more salt to taste , if necessary, and a few shakes of pepper.

We had enough to eat for dinner, have for lunch leftovers the next day, and freeze about 2 cups for later. I think the five of us eat the equivalent of 3 or 4 adults - the kids take their Sloppy Joes as more of a light coating of sauce on a bun with cheese. I don't see why you couldn't make this with all lentils, if that's your thing. We've done ground turkey in the past, too. I plan to try and remember to take these out of the freezer the night before and then just warm them up in a saucepan.

Nutrition Info
per 1/2 cup serving: Calories - 198, Fat - 6.3g, Fiber 3.5g, Sugar - 9g, Protein - 17g, Sodium - 408mg, Vitamin A - 28%, Iron - 16%

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Black Bean Burgers and Bonus Kale Salad

Sometimes your family reminds you of how silly you can be.

One of the last times I was at my mom's for a visit, we were sitting around the dining room table for a typical hours-long meal (I like to think this is the French in us), when the conversation turned to my sister's recent dietary changes. Then, before I knew it, I became the focus of the discussion.

My grandmother gave one of her endearing, disgusted looks and said, "Melissa, I remember when you were a vegetarian and you were SO SICK. Your mother had to take you to the doctor. EGGHH." We all kind of looked at her funny because this never actually happened. There was no convincing her otherwise. Then someone else chimed in, "I remember when you told your mother you were going to be a VEE-gaan." And then, "Oh yeah, Liss, remember your 'free meat' policy?"

Well, when you put it that way, I sure do seem flaky.

I have had a pretty tumultuous relationship with meats. It probably started when I was 14-ish and came home from a Naturalist summer-camp-boat experience on the Chesapeake Bay - Voyage of the Mimi, anyone? One of the counselors was the coolest woman ever. She wore Teva's and they left awesome tan lines on her feet. She didn't shave her legs. She didn't eat meat. Neither did the cutie-patootie Captain of our voyage. Ahh, Captain Drew. Obviously, I came home and foreswore all meat. I subsisted on a diet of Wonder Bread and oranges instead. This lasted somewhere between one week and one year - who's to say?

Throughout high school and the first part of college I sort of flirted on and off with being a vegetarian. I thought I made a life-long commitment when I was 20 and heard about all of the ways that Big Meat destroys land and forests and the environment and people's lives. I would say things like, "I just don't really want to be a part of that economy."

I think that sentiment is eventually where "free meat" came in. In the beginning of the end, if I was offered meat that, in my mind, was going to go to waste anyway, I would eat it. This was partially to not be rude in certain social situations, and partially because I was excited to find a loop-hole in my economy schema. I just didn't want to buy the stuff myself. It was a matter of conscience. This policy fully took effect when I moved to central Pennsylvania. Then I could go to someone's house and eat something other than a piece of bread and some iceberg lettuce. I know that real vegetarians everywhere are rolling their eyes at me right now. “Free meat” was the gateway, and getting married, I think, was the final nail in the coffin.

For the record, I never told my mom that I was going to go vegan. There was a "vegan experiment" once, when my roommate came back from a trip west and sat next to a vegan on her plane ride. It sounds like he was pretty evangelical about it and asked her if she ever thought about the fact that only humans drink the milk of other animals. She brought that same question to us, her roommates, and frankly, that thought had never occurred to me. It kind of grossed me out, if only momentarily. So the experiment was born - two weeks to see if we could be vegan. At this point my memory fails and I don't know if they joined me or if I just like to tell myself that other people did this with me. What I learned was that you can eat Keebler grasshopper cookies as a vegan and that soy milk isn't so bad.

Now that we do, in fact, eat meat, my favorite cookbooks still tend to be all of my vegetarian ones: my collection of Moosewood cookbooks and Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Here's a tangent for you: I love Ithaca, New York. We visited for a couple of days as part of our honeymoon and have been drawn back two more times since. We stopped there originally because of my infatuation with the vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant, but discovered the gorges, the vineyards, the hippies, oh my!

So, it's been a rocky road, and when I meet true, honest-to-goodness vegetarians, I sometimes feel a twinge of guilt. On the whole, though, I am mostly happy with my solution to the vegetarian dilemma that seems to plague me. We try to buy meat directly from a farmer. We try to eat 2-3 vegetarian meals a week. And of, course, my favorite - I mix bulgur, quinoa, or lentils into everything. You should try it; it's sneaky and fun!

Wow, I've droned on about this. So, I will give you two recipes for sticking with me. If you ever start to feel guilty about the amount of meat that you eat and all of the rainforests you may or may not be destroying and the giant hole in the atmosphere that you are contributing to, not to mention that the cows or chickens you are eating probably ate newspapers and soy while they were being "raised," make these black bean burgers instead. I will temper this guilt-trip by telling you that today I froze 10 of these veggie-burgers, but I also formed 2 pounds of ground beef into about 10 patties and froze them as well.

These are really easy with a food processor, but you could also mash up the ingredients by hand. I haven't tried to add other veggies, but I think the base recipe is pretty forgiving. You could shred some carrots and chop up mushrooms -maybe sautée them first - to throw in, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

Easy Black Bean Burgers (Adapted from Cooking Light)
2 pieces of whole wheat bread, torn into pieces
3-4 green onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup frozen corn (optional - my kids are crazy for corn)
salt, herbs, spices

Process the bread pieces until breadcrumbs form (If you are not using a food processor, maybe toast the bread first and smash it in a plastic zipper-bag with your rolling pin? Or just use store-bought breadcrumbs). Transfer the breadcrumbs to a large bowl. Next, pulsate the onions and garlic a few times until they are finely chopped, add the black beans and pulse a few more times. We're not looking for slurry, here. There should still be some whole black beans left. Transfer the ingredients to the bowl with the bread crumbs. Add eggs, and corn or other veggies, if using. Add seasoning. I added a bit of salt, a shake of cumin and chili powder. You don't have to make them southwest burgers - that's just what I tend to do with black bean things. Mix it all together.

I formed about ten patties – 4 grown-up size and 6 kid size - and put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for 1-2 hours, then wrap in plastic, label, date, and put back in the freezer. You're done.

We took the experimental group out of the freezer and left them on the counter for 30-45 minutes while I did some other things. Then we cooked them low and slow on our gas grill, but you can probably pan-fry them. We lined the grill with foil for fear of a black bean mess. It worked out well - they turn out a little soft, but with a crusty roll (I have a homemade bun recipe coming) and some burger toppings, they were good.

Actually, my kids asked if we could please eat these every night. No, weirdos.




I will never, ever tell you they taste "just like meat." They don't. They taste just like black bean burgers.

This blog is becoming so carby and freezery, so I have to tell you what I had for lunch today. You have to promise not to put it in the freezer, though. I don't think that would work out favorably. 

I went to a Memorial Day picnic at a friend's house and someone brought a delicious raw kale salad. I've been thinking about it ever since. If I had a little more "foody" in me, I probably would have been more inventive with the ingredients. I just threw together what I had on hand instead. This is what I would eat for lunch everyday if I actually were vegan. Maybe I'd add a side-dish of grasshopper cookies too.

Kale Salad
3-4 cups kale, torn into pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cup raw snow peas
3 green onions, sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs. peanut butter
A few hits of Siracha
1-2 Tbs. sunflower seeds or other nuts/seeds

Whisk together the peanut butter and soy sauce in the bottom of a large bowl. Add half of the lemon juice. Add Kale and stir to coat the leaves with the sauce. Add the rest of the lemon juice and stir. Throw in the rest of the ingredients and toss. The longer the kale marinates in the sauce, the more tender it will become. I ate this for lunch today with a handful of dried apricots. It helped me to not succumb to my afternoon ritual of eating a bowl of ice cream the size of my head.




If, like me, you have a penchant for buying kale and Swiss chard and spinach every time you go to a farmer's market and there is no way you can possibly eat it all before it turns to mush, you can freeze it for use in soups and sautées. Just de-vein it and blanch it in boiling water for 2 minutes (probably more like 1 minute for spinach), drain in a mesh sieve, cool, and freeze in plastic bags or containers. Bam! Kale salad segues to freezer-tip.

Nutrition Info:

Black Bean Burgers (per 1/8 of mixture): Calories – 156; Fat – 3g; Sodium – 538mg;
Fiber – 6g; Protein – 10g; Iron – 17%

Kale Salad (per ¼ of salad, about 1 ½ cup serving): Calories – 130; Fat – 6g; Fiber – 4g; Protein – 6g; Vitamin A – 220%; Vitamin C – 180%; Calcium – 10%; Iron – 11%








Thursday, June 6, 2013

Blogging is Harder Than I Thought

This week I have been cooking, baking, and freezing like crazy. You wouldn't know though, because I can't seem to get a blog post published. I'll offer some, among many, of the reasons:

1.) In the evening, when, theoretically I have some time to write, I sit and stare at the wall instead. This is one of my favorite pastimes. When Tom and I were dating, I bet he thought I just liked sitting with him because, you know, love and stuff. That was probably part of it. But mostly I like to just sit and do not much at all. Maybe have a smackerel of something, maybe not. Basically, I think I am Winnie-the-Pooh.

2.) I started reading this month's book for book group. We are reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Nearly every chapter I read makes me cry. It is definitely a page-turner and is the thing I am doing besides wall-staring when I get a free minute. I think a big topic of our discussion this month might be this - because a story is horribly sad and horribly horrible, does that automatically make it a good story? That's what I've been mulling over while reading, but there is no denying that this book almost forces me to keep going.

3.) Unexpected things happen. For instance, this morning about 5 minutes before I had to take the girls to school, I couldn't find EITHER set of keys to my car. I ransacked my own house. I didn't even need any help from my little friends. Here is a visual for you:


I swear, it doesn't always look like this.

For about 40 minutes I searched and searched. I had a crying melt-down. I had a full-blown adult temper tantrum complete with many f-bombs (if you know me - let's face it, all of you do - you know this is BIG). Thank goodness for a wonderful neighbor who took Laurel to school. I finally did find a set - on the floor next to my son's dresser. When I got back from taking Alice to preschool, I found the other set. "Someone" placed them in my dutch oven. I am currently obsessed with my pedometer and I was pleased to find that all of the key-searching netted me about a half mile of walking - just in my house. Sweet.

Because it's been such a challenging morning, (okay, I'm reading a book about the plight of women in Afghanistan over the past 50 years, so this is my parenthetical statement where I tell you I'm being sarcastic) today's recipe is super easy.

Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken

3-4 pounds boneless-skinless chicken breast
3-4 cups tomatillo salsa (salsa verde)

Place chicken in your slow cooker. Cover completely with salsa. Cook on low for about 8 hours. Shred the chicken with two forks. Season to taste with salt. Serve. 

We ate this with some brown rice, taco toppings, and lots of chips. I froze a quart in a freezer bag for use later as either taco/burrito filling or maybe a zesty pulled-chicken sandwich. I will probably set it in the fridge the night before we plan to eat it, and then warm it up on the stovetop for a quick dinner. Easy to slow-cook. Easy to freeze. Now you will have time to search for you keys for forty minutes. Win. Win. Win.


Nutrition Info for 1/2 cup serving based on using Trader Joe's salsa verde:
Calories - 141.5; Fat - 2g; Sodium - 320.8g; Protein - 26g; Vitamin C - 19.4%

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

4 Pounds of Tortilla Chips

My lovely assistant, Tom, ran an errand for me today. He went to Pittsburgh's Strip District to get tomatillo salsa and some other things. He came back with this giant bag of chips. They were made fresh today AND you can freeze them. How fortuitous.

 

A baby in the background is a helpful size reference.

So, I guess we're going to freeze some chips. I will let you know how defrosted chips taste as soon as I find out. Perhaps a more useful tip than chip-freezing is that if you are in Pittsburgh and in need of a lot of chips for something like a party, go to Reyna's in the Strip. You can get about 4 pounds of freshly made tortilla chips for $7.50.

I have lots more coming up soon, stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What Have We Always Said is the Most Important Thing?

Breakfast?


If you haven't ever watched Arrested Development, this is the rhetorical question the main character, Michael Bluth, asks his son, George Michael. He is seeking the answer, "family." Breakfast is pretty important too.

I think of this scene a lot because I love breakfast. It's my favorite. If you follow along with this blog throughout the summer, you may begin to notice the breakfast-heavy repetoire. I have so many ideas... waffles, egg mcmuffins, quiche, steel-cut oatmeal, pancakes, muffins, cinnamon bread. If I'm not careful I might accidently end up with a freezer full of breakfast.

That's okay, though. Breakfast is my favorite. I have inadvertantly created high expectations around breakfast in this household. In fact, as I began working on this very blog post, my six-year-old came down and asked for apple slices and cereal and cheesy eggs for her breakfast. I'm always short-order-cooking it for breakfast, but I don't mind. After all, breakfast just might be the most important thing.

Much to my dismay, recently my kids discovered cereal bars (Nutri-grain). I mean, for someone who loves breakfast, this couldn't get much worse. My intent here is not to get all preachy, high-fructose corn syrup is evil, I'm a whole foods only person blah blah blah. I think most of us know that we shouldn't eat lots of processed foods (I think, I hope). I'm also pretty sure we all pick our own hills to die on about this. For instance, I may not be that into the cereal bars, but there is often a box of Cheez-Itz that finds its way into our home. And other things, but you don't have to know about them. Anyway, when the kids were all sick and wouldn't eat anything throughout the entire months of February and March, my genius husband brought home a bunch of cereal bars. They ate them! Hooray! Then they wanted them all the time. Boo.

At least now I know one thing that all three kids will always eat. I can add it to a list that includes cupcakes, cookies, frozen yogurt from a frozen yogurt shop, cheese-fries, and oddly, peas.

Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Here is a recipe for homemade cereal bars. It's actually nothing like a real Nutri-Grain bar, and they didn't even end up much healthier. You can find other recipes online that involve rolling out two layers of sticky oat-flour dough and basically making your own jam to go in between the layers. You can even make individual pockets of said dough-layers and seal them up into perfect little homemade bars. Around here? Ain't nobody got time for that.

This recipe is inspired by a cross between this and this (Oh dear. I'm new to blogging. Is it okay to link to established, way awesomer blogs? Are the blog police coming to get me?).

(Cute Little Helper)

Super Fruit Cereal Bars:

Bottom Layer:
1 Egg
1/3 cup Honey
1/2 cup Applesauce
2 1/4  cups Rolled Oats
3/4 cup Oat Bran

1 Jar Jam (Trader Joe's Super Fruit Spread)

Top Layer:
1/3 cup Rolled Oats
1/3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
3 Tbs. Butter
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/8 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Baking Powder

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. Beat egg with a hand mixer on high speed until frothy. Add honey and applesauce and beat until combined. Stir in Oats and Oat Bran. Press the mixture into  the lined pan. Carefully spread the jam over top.

Place "top layer" ingredients into food processor and pulse until coarse crumbs form. Sprinkle over jam layer.

Bake for 25 minutes. Take out of oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300. Cut into 16 bars and return to oven for 15 minutes more. Allow to cool slightly before freezing them (if any last to freeze). I put the individual bars on a cookie sheet and froze them first. Then I placed them between pieces of parchment paper and threw them into a plastic freezer bag, then into the freezer. To defrost, you can either stick them on the counter overnight, or pop them in the microwave for about 15 seconds.

(Cute Little Helper's hand getting a little close)

Nutrition information per bar: Calories - 161, Fat - 3.6 g, Fiber - 2.5 g, Sugars - 18.4 g, Protein - 3.5 g, Vitamin C - 61.3%, Iron - 5.3%

*** I think adding 1/3-1/2 cup melted butter to the bottom layer will make them a bit softer. I was trying to cut some calories so I didn't add any. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Every Freezer Needs a Lasagna


We had a slightly strange social situation not too long ago where friends that we invited to dinner ended up bringing the main dish. They suggested it, and I just went with it. And then I thought maybe it was a little rude of me to not insist that they just come over and relax. And then I felt even more like a jerk when they came over and broke the news that they were expecting their first child and mom-to-be had been feeling significantly ill over the past, oh, 4 months. Sigh.

What they brought, though, that was pretty good. They called it “Lancaster County Lasagna,” and I’m still not sure if this is actually a thing or just what they call the lasagna my friend grew up eating. When you Google “Lancaster County Lasagna,” guess what? You don’t get the recipe. So, let’s make it an actual thing, shall we?

I know what you’re thinking:  Really, Melissa? Lasagna? This is your second recipe - couldn’t you think of something a little more interesting?

Two things: 1.) My freezer is empty (except for this), and every freezer needs a lasagna. 2.) I had exactly the right things hanging around in my pantry to make this.

Ok, one more thing: it’s really tasty. It is not your typical Bolognese ricotta/parmesan/mozzarella job. Nothing against traditional lasagna, but sometimes you want something a little different. Sometimes you think you want lasagna but what you really want is Hamburger Helper.  I never would have known I wanted Hamburger Helper because my awesome mom never made the stuff. But it turns out maybe I wanted Hamburger Helper.

Lancaster County Lasagna
(Adapted from what I remember about my friend’s lasagna. Ok, full disclosure, I didn’t call and ask for the recipe. I am working with a 2-hour window of napportunity, and I need to get this done NOW.)

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
3-4 large leaves Swiss Chard (optional)
2 - 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
¼ c. chopped parsley
3 c. shredded cheese – Colby Jack, Cheddar, Mozzarella
lasagna noodles (I had 9 hanging around in an open box. Perfect. You can use more.)

Brown the ground beef. While it is cooking, chop up the onion and throw it in the pan. You can chop up the stems of the chard leaves and throw them in with the onions if you want. I do this because it momentarily makes me feel better about all of the other stuff I waste. While the onions and meat are cooking, finely chop the leave portions of the chard. When the beef mixture is fully cooked, add the chard leaves and stir around until just wilted. Remove from heat, salt and pepper to taste. Add all but about 1 cup of the diced tomatoes and the parsley.

Assemble. Put a bit of the tomato-beef mixture in the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of noodles, a layer of tomato-beef, a layer of cheese, and repeat until you run out. I don’t ever boil lasagna noodles first.  They will soften in the baking process, and I like the little bit of chew that you get with unbaked noodles. Feel free to boil them according to the package directions first, if it pleases you. Top your last layer of noodles with the reserved tomatoes and a handful of cheese.

Here is where it gets even more contentious.

You can either bake this bad-boy first, let it cool and then freeze it (this way you can even cut it up into single servings and freeze them individually), or  wrap it up and freeze it right away before baking. I am opting to freeze now, bake later, due to the aforementioned napping window that I am working with.

To avoid freezer-burn, wrap in plastic wrap before wrapping in aluminum foil. But seriously, folks:



This warning is based on first-hand experience.

Try to remember to move this big, frozen hunk of lasagna to the fridge on the day before you want to cook it. Bake at 350, covered – with foil, not plastic wrap – for about 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. Cooking time will vary based on how defrosted or not defrosted it is.
Enjoy!

Per 1/9 pan serving: Calories – 311, Fat – 13.6 g, Sodium – 511 mg, Fiber – 2.8 g, Protein – 20.9 g, Calcium – 22.9%, Iron – 14.7%, Vitamin A – 24.1%, Vitamin C – 19.6%
                

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Binders Full of Burritos


About four years ago I attended my first MOPs meeting. It was an awesome little twice a month date with other moms where the kids were off playing with enthusiastic caregivers while we moms spent some time commiserating with, but mostly encouraging, one another. The “valley of the diapers” can be exhausting. I loved MOPs. I miss it.

So at this one meeting, another mom brought some things she was looking to give away, including a huge “Mom binder.” People were fighting over this thing. If there was a comic-strip thought bubble above my head at this meeting, there would have definitely been a big question mark in it. To this day, I really couldn’t tell you what to do with such a binder. Any system of organization that goes beyond lists written on scraps of paper and crumpled napkins is really beyond my scope of expertise. And thank the Lord for Google Calendar (one of these days I’ll change the alerts so that I am notified about something in my calendar before 10 minutes before it is happening). I am not so much poking fun at this binder as demonstrating (and embracing) my Type B organizational “skills.”

When I got my Fall schedule, I almost had a panic attack. There will be several mornings a week where the 5 people that comprise Our Family will have to get to 5 different places. I have been trying to work out the kinks in my mind of how to make this happen, and I have come to the conclusion that I need a turbo-charged mom binder with teleportation capabilities that does light housekeeping and some cooking.

Just kidding. I need to freeze some quick breakfasts, that’s what I need to do. So, the first thing to go into the freezer? Breakfast burritos. Yay!!!


This is extremely easy, and we even sampled one to make sure we weren't going to lead anyone astray. You can put whatever your little heart desires in these babies. I will make another batch this week with swiss chard and ham, but here is the "recipe" for black bean breakfast burritos:

8 flour tortillas (I like Trader Joe's whole wheat)
8 eggs
1 cup of black beans, rinsed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Scramble the eggs in a large pan. When the eggs are almost set, add the black beans and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the egg mixture and cheese among the 8 tortillas. Fold the tortillas. Here is a handy graphic for "fold the tortillas":


Wrap each burrito individually in plastic wrap and stick them all in a gallon-size plastic bag. Label, date, freeze. If you cringe at the thought of using all of that plastic wrap, you could also freeze the un-wrapped burritos first on a cookie sheet, then pop them off the cookie sheet and into the plastic bag or other container. There may be more freezer-burn issues with this method, but if you plan to use them up quickly, it'll do. When you're ready to eat your delicious breakfast: un-wrap it, put it on a microwave-safe plate, nuke for 60-90 seconds, flipping it over half-way through. We discussed toasting it in the toaster oven after thawing in the microwave to get a little crunch on the tortilla. However, we thought it was delicious straight from the microwave. 


Kid tested. Mother approved.

I even figured out the nutrition info for you!
Per burrito: Calories - 293, Total fat - 12.1g, Cholesterol - 200 mg, Sodium - 400 mg, Protein - 15.4g, Fiber - 5.9g, Sugars - 0g, Calcium - 14.6%, Iron - 10.5%

Monday, May 20, 2013

Summer Project

It was a cozy, December night, and Tom and I had just finished watching the movie Food, Inc. I turned to the poor guy in tears and said something like this: "I hereby decree that we shall henceforth NEVER buy meat in a regular grocery store again." He looked at me quizzically and then very calmly responded, "Well, I guess we're going to need a chest freezer."

Because I am married to a man who spends his days trying to make everyone's life better, within 72 hours we had a meat order called in to a local farm and a new, heavily discounted freezer taking up residence in the basement. So began the era of the chest freezer.

It was a good era, the chest freezer era. Many a chicken roasted. Pot-roasts galore. Experimental pre-frozen crock pot meals abounding (sorry, but blecht!). And then something happened. Well, two things...

We welcomed our third baby, and I began nursing school - within the same year.

It's been a little, uh, chaotic up in here. One day I looked in the chest freezer and discovered that it was completely empty. Ok, well, except for a bag of charcoal (there was an accidental unplugging incident once, and charcoal absorbs odors, and you can figure it out) and an ice cream attachment for our Kitchenaid mixer that has been kept nice and cold just waiting to make us some delicious ice cream. Any day now.


It's okay, little freezer, I have some good news. I have off for the whole summer. 13 weeks. 13 weeks! 

So, I started thinking - what if I made 2 things each week and stuck them in the freezer? Then I'd have an awesome stockpile of nutritious breakfast-on-the-go things and easy dinners for when the insanity school starts. And I started thinking a little bit more - what if I blogged about it too? Then I could add my freezer saga onto the growing catalogue of freezer-cooking information out there on the internets. Okay, maybe there isn't as huge a need for this type of information as I am imagining, but I think it will be fun.
So that's my story. I'm hoping to fill my empty freezer. It is one way that I am choosing to manage our household chaos. And when I'm done with this project, who knows? Maybe I'll start another blog called "Empty My Attic."